Justice, not just charity…

This past week I’ve attended two events on campus, tackling two very important human rights issues in today’s world. On Monday, Amnesty International, STAR and Freedom from Torture hosted a thought-provoking panel discussion on the Refugee Crisis. Last night, Carnival RAG worked with Childreach International to show the feature-length film, “Sold”, telling the story of a young Nepalese girl who is trafficked into sexual exploitation in India. This was also followed by a panel of excellent speakers.

You could drown in the statistics that represent these issues — they just completely swallow you up. UNICEF estimates that 1.2 million children are trafficked every year, and that’s not even including adult men and women. According to UNHCR, there are currently around 21.3 million refugees in the world, including 10 million individuals who are stateless and therefore cannot exercise even the most basic of human rights. Statistics don’t usually defeat me but I can’t even visualise these kinds of numbers; in fact I’m ending this week feeling pretty hopeless about the state of the world.

This is okay though, because these are the familiar peaks and troughs that characterise the pursuit of social justice, or at least my small amount of experience of this pursuit. ‘Charity’ enables you to wave goodbye to monthly sums of money as they travel into the accounts of mega-organisations; a detached action that you consider perhaps once a month when you glance over your bank statement. On no account am I criticising donating to charity just to be clear— it is a wonderful thing to do if you can afford to give — but I think our ‘just’ living can’t stop there.

Neither do protests or petitions alone constitute a real, radical contribution to the goal of equality and safety and freedom for all. Surely it’s got to be an all in, whole-hog, entire lifestyle kind of thing. Everyday decisions, even the smallest of the small are important. What kind of coffee should I choose? Where shall I buy my clothes? What should I do with my Tuesday evenings? I’m not saying that every second of every day of our lives should be filled with rallies and volunteering our time and scouring the internet for shoes that have been knitted together by blind nuns using only dried elephant poo — that kind of approach is knackering and unsustainable. But I think if we immerse ourselves in the peaks and troughs of the pursuit of social justice, we have the potential to instigate powerful change together.

Let’s celebrate the highs like Cadbury’s making Fairtrade chocolate; Tesco committing all unsold food to charitable organisations; the tiny local projects in every town and city housing homeless individuals and asylum seekers sustained by little funding but lots of love. And more importantly, let the lows continue to challenge us and reignite our desire to do good things in this world.